A career as a best-selling author at 88


After a lifetime of writing for national newspapers and radio broadcasts, Ted Morris has seen, done, and written many things over the years. However, one of most personal things he has done is self-publish his first book.

Matching the witty humour in the book, Morris said he, “has never been successful at keeping jobs, and the most recent one I am trying is launching a career as a best-selling author at the age of 88.”

Tales My Father Told Me, (When Mother Wasn’t Home), was written for his adult grandchildren, grandnephews, and grandnieces, and the grown families of his friends “and for people who keep that inner spark of their inner child,” Morris said.

The book is a collection of short stories, classic nursery rhymes and fairytales updated with a grown-up, satirical spin. A journalist, Morris has researched the origins of the tales and intertwines this in his re-telling.

The octogenarian started as a high school correspondent for weekly newspapers. In the 50s and 60s, he worked as a correspondent for The National and was a radio station manager on Baffin Island.

“My self-assigned task was to foster native language broadcasting,” said Morris. “All these folk stories and folktales were on tape. Unfortunately, after I left the station, someone decided they needed more recording tape, so they scrubbed them all. I wept.”

He also worked for The Telegraph as the bureau chief in the Hamilton area and wrote under pseudonyms for The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star while working for the CBC. “Most of the stuff was coming from the Northwest Territories, which was totally unplowed ground at the time. We even set up two pirate radio stations, which were later adopted by the CBC.”

He had some advice for would-be journalists, telling them to get a broad education in the first three years of post-secondary, then do a fourth year of journalism. “Because then you have a better, well-rounded understanding of what you might be writing about, and actually have questions you can ask.”

Morris was also part of the first Canadian team on Mount Everest, a PR manager for Canada, a licensed pilot and ordained minister.

For more than 20 years, he wrote annual Christmas stories for his children. “I would put them out as limited editions, about 100, and send them.” He wrote under the pseudonym, Ted Hébert. The first chapter in his book, Tah-tah, Teddy. Bye-bye, Hébert, is a transition from stories for children to stories for “big people. It is a rite of passage from naivety to pragmatism, a collection of bedtime stories for adults.”

What drew Morris to re-jig nursery rhymes and fairy tales was the idea that originally nursery rhymes were morality plays. “They are also the focus of a lot of what we understand. So much of what we take for granted has been shaped by what we learn in nursery rhymes.” He added they do two things: scare children so they are quiet and go to bed, or the boogeyman will get them, and political satire. “I indulge in a great deal of satire.”

From writing to publishing took about two years. Morris worked with Friesen Press and the book is available online by searching E.R. Morris – Author.

Morris dedicated his book to his wife, Gail, but also his children and grandchildren. He said it’s a gift to them, “because everything you write, whatever it is, has a piece of your voice in it.”

Morris is doing a book signing Aug. 26 from 2-5 p.m. on Esson Lake, at the boat launch, halfway between the narrows and the culvert. The dock will be marked with festive balloons. The rain date is Aug. 27.